ACTION is needed to tackle the availability of drugs in prisons according to the Tories.

The party obtained figures on the number of prisoners disciplined for taking drugs showing it has increased to its highest number in seven years.

Statistics from the Scottish Prison Service show there were 1133 prisoners caught either taking or administering drugs to someone else in the last year.

The figure has increased steadily in each of the last four years from the low of 634 after a fall from 1257 in 2008/09.

The Tories warned it is a growing problem which needs to be addressed.

Douglas Ross, Conservative justice spokesman, said: “This is an environment which is meant to be absolutely secure, yet it seems offenders are continuing their criminality within prison walls.

“The fact that more than three inmates are being caught using drugs every day shows there is a very significant problem, and these figures indicate it’s getting worse year after year.”

Last year’s figure was an increase from 1003 the year before which the Tories say only reflects those caught taking drugs.

Mr Ross also warned it is an issue when attempting to rehabilitate offenders.

He added: “Detecting and recording these incidents isn’t enough. It’s vital the SPS cracks down on this problem and makes sure these substances don’t keep slipping through the net.

“All political parties agree that rehabilitation of offenders is critical for society.

“But how can this be expected to take place while drug-taking remains so prevalent in prisons?”

The Scottish Prison Service has said it is committed to reducing the use of drugs among prisoners and reduced drug use is one of their performance indicators.

In its latest Annual Report it states: “The number of prisoners with reduced or stabilised substance misuse has increased to 46%. This reflects the organisations continued efforts in working with partners to deliver drug awareness and support services.”

The 46% figure is an improvement on the previous year’s performance of 40% with reduced or stabilised use.”

The prison service has also said it is working to respond to the threat posed to prisoners from New Psychoactive Substances, previously known as legal highs, before they were outlawed. The strategy includes awareness training to prisoners and staff.